Why Yelling Matters: a child's perspective

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I heard the words tumble out of my little boy’s mouth
Words that were both hard to hear
But also struck me to my core how beautiful
This moment was
That my son felt completely safe to share these feelings with me
Without fear of repercussion or reprimand
Knowing he would be met with understanding.

Sometimes I feel so caught in the middle
Between my boys and my husband.
Between knowing my choice to raise them in this way
Peaceful, conscious, responsive parenting
Vs the time-outs, the punishments, the consequences
The yelling, the demanding and commanding

Caught between knowing the brain science of knowing this was the best way
Working really hard on my own personal development to get to this point
So that I’m available to commit to working on my relationship with my boys
And my husband’s upbringing
And continued need for control
That he attempts to coerce through yelling and demanding and threatening
(and probably spanking if I didn’t put my foot down on that one!)

Let me be clear, my husband loves our boys more than words
He doesn’t want to intentionally hurt them
He is doing what he knows
What he experienced as a child that his programming tells him
Is how you raise a child
How a child learns how to be in the world
By obeying what an adult says

We both want the same things for our boys
To love them.  To instill values.  To teach them.
The intention behind my husband is love
and this is how he experienced love as a child
by parents doing the very best they were capable of
with the skills, knowledge and support available.

He is using the ingrained responses to stress, fear, frustration and anger
That he learned at a young age
The belief that it is okay for someone in power (the parent) to make a child obey
And seeing the defiance as disrespect
Fueling more anger.

He has seen peaceful parenting in action for over two years
When he is struggling he’ll say to me
“Go work your magic”
He sees more cooperation and less meltdowns
But yet in the moment he continues to be hijacked.

Because he is simply reacting to those old stories and beliefs
The story that tells him “I’m either in control or I’m not doing my job (as a parent)”
The same story that was playing on repeat in my head
Just a few years ago
The story from the past that was writing my present
The story that I wasn’t doing a good job (always looking for outside validation and getting a whole lot of chaos in return)
The triggers that kept me from being present with my child when he needed me.

In this moment as I heard the words my son spoke in a quiet moment
After a confrontation with daddy
“I listen to you because you’re nice to me.  Daddy can be mean so I don’t want to listen to him”
I sat quietly with him in my arms
I validated and empathized with his feelings
Then I asked him how we might work together to repair the relationship with daddy
And what he said next cut me to my core.

“Why should I? Why should I repair it? I try all the time and all he does is break it.
He yells at me or blames me for things.  He makes me pick up for him. I give him kisses and hugs and he breaks it.”  Anthony age 6.

I slowly took this in.  I repeated the words back to him.
I didn’t argue or dismiss.  I didn’t try to fix.
I simply held him
Holding the space for him to have these feelings

“I hear that things are hard with daddy sometimes.  He loves you very much but you never deserve to be talked to like that.  Nobody does. Can I share with daddy what you just told me? ” I quietly asked him.

i had read the research.
I knew that yelling erodes more than just your connection with a child
It erodes their self-esteem and self worth
And they will start to believe those words that you are throwing at them
In these moments of overwhelm and stress and anger.

I know he is learning how to handle anger in the same way.
I also know that having one parent that he truly believes has his back
Can make a huge difference.

I shared with my husband this conversation.
Not to shame him or criticize
But to share and educate
The effect on his relationship with his boys
These old stories are having.

Shifting how a parent reacts to a child takes awareness
And work
It’s not (for most) just reading a book or listening to a video
The brain doesn’t work that way
It takes conscious work every day to shift habits and mindset
It takes reflection to call out these old beliefs
That are no longer serving you
But continue to write your story

The beliefs that judge a child’s behavior and motivation
The beliefs that hijack your reactions in those moments of stress or feeling powerless

Peaceful, responsive parenting isn’t permissive parenting
But for so many those are the only two options
And the fear of permissiveness is so great
That the default is control.

But there’s another way.
I hold limits for my children on their behavior
As I guide and teach them
I collaborate with my kids on solutions to challenges
I see my child as my equal, not in knowledge or wisdom
But in worth.  To have their own preferences and desires and wants
That don’t compete with my own.  They simply are.
What competes and creates power struggles are the competing solutions.


How do you begin to create awareness to shift how you parent?
Look where the anger and frustration exist.
Journal about what is showing up for you in those moments
When you feel powerless
What thoughts are running through your head
That tells you that things should be different.

Yelling is a habit.
A reaction to stress, fear, anger, powerlessness
That is learned as a child
But becomes entrenched in who you are
and how you react to your child.

With work you can shift habits
It takes conscious awareness
and commitment.
(Grab my free download to shift yelling
To a new way of communication here)

Make the commitment to change
To stop yelling
Announce it to your child
And ask for help remembering your commitment

Have your child pick a power word
That’s kind of like throwing the penalty flag
When you fall back into old responses
Instead of feeling powerless in the middle of your storm
Give your child permission to stand up
And hold you accountable to your promise.

Work everyday on building the connection you have with your child.
Tell him you love him not when he’s done something you approve of
But for “no reason”
Snuggle.  Help him. Play with him.
Take time to understand, validate and empathize
With him when he’s struggling to navigate a challenging moment.

Peaceful, responsive parenting at its core
Is a parent regulating their emotions first
Restoring the mind and body to a place of calm and compassion
Before responding to their child

To see a child as doing the best he’s capable of in any moment
And the behavior he might be choosing in that moment (even if you don’t agree with it)
Is his best attempt to communicate a feeling or a need
And when a child doesn’t feel heard
Those behaviors get bigger.

It’s accepting a child for who he is
Not who you want him to be
It’s responding to the behavior your child is using in the moment
Not judging the child for what you perceive it to mean.

Children want to be respected and be treated in a way
That feels like love and kindness and compassion
As they learn and grow
And make mistakes.

Children don’t learn from the yelling, the punishments
The inflicting of pain (emotional or physical)
They retreat into fear (which is not the same as respect)
Or they fight like hell for their independence

These methods at best stop the behavior in the moment
But at what cost?


Responsive parenting is more work in the moment
It focuses on the long game of parenting
A child who wants to make good choices
To cooperate.  To be kind.
A child who stands strong in the face of peer pressure
Knowing he always has a safe space to return to
A child knows that he can be his authentic imperfect self
And will be loved unconditionally.

It is not your child’s responsibility to stop the behavior
So you can finally have some peace
It’s your responsibility to find that inner peace
If you want the behavior to change.

If this resonates with you,
Grab my free download or sign up for a free live masterclass here.
Because before you can change a habit you need to see things differently
And shift how you communicate with your child.


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Irene is a certified parenting coach who is passionate about creating peace in parenting and opening parents hearts to what is possible in their family. She works with clients 1-1 and offers support through her digital course, The Peaceful Parent Playbook. She is host of the private Facebook Community, The Moms Hive. She is inspired to help moms let go of the doing that leads to the overwhelm and more “bee-ing” in peace, joy and a love for parenting.

Not a member of The Moms Hive (or The Dads Hive) yet? Join the private Facebook community that is all about celebrating the mom (or dad) you are today while offering the support, inspiration and tools to create more peace in your family. Includes weekly lives to support you on this parenting journey!

Irene McKennaComment